Friday afternoon, Diana Putman vowed to protect the constitution of the United States against all enemies as she accepted her new assignment as the Mission Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Previously, Diana served as the Humanitarian and Health Activities Branch Chief at the U.S. Africa Command, where she has served since August 2008. Before that, Diana served in Tunisia (3 years), Tanzania (5 years), and at the regional mission in Kenya (6 years) as Director of the Office of Food Security which designed and managed regional programs in 23 countries with a focus on agriculture, trade and food security.
She conducted much of her doctoral research in Mali, Rwanda and Somalia and in Japan, Diana conducted post-doctoral research on women and gender differences with Fulbright and National Science Foundation Support in the 1990’s. In June 2010, she was awarded the American Foreign Service Association’s William R. Rivkin Award for Constructive Dissent for her efforts to provide counseling and rehabilitation for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
With 3 degrees in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College, a Masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College, and studies at the Université de Grenoble in France, Diana has received multiple Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from USAID, the Secretary of State’s Group Award for Heroism after the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania, and the Praxis Award from the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists.
The long list of accomplishments, achievements and accolades goes on for a bit, but you get the picture.
What you missed from Friday’s ceremony: Diana’s family looking on with pride. Most notably, Warren Putman, Diana’s father, who was recognized during the ceremony for his own service with USAID as a livestock and agricultural specialist—starting in March of 1962! —only five months after USAID was created.
Speaking to Warren by phone last week in anticipation of today’s ceremony, I asked him if he was surprised by Diana’s profound interest in development. “There was never a doubt in my mind, I never considered for a moment she’d do anything else but development, and from a very young age, it was quite clear.”
Warren reflected on time spent working in different countries—St. Lucia, Upper Volta (Burkina Fasso), Niger, Mali and Tanzania, to name a few—and how this may have affected his young family. I asked him what Diana learned from him over the course of his career. To my surprise, he preferred to explain what Diana has taught him about development. “As a child, Diana was always present, always right there with the adults, participating in conversations as an adult. She was keenly aware of everything around us, always. And starting at a very young age, maybe 11 or so years old, she began to stress the importance of recognizing cultural differences, respecting tribal borders, always thinking of others first and being respectful of local customs.”
Add ‘altruistic’ to her long list of qualifications.
All of these achievements and assignments have prepared Diana for this next phase of her USAID career during a critical time for the DRC region. Her objectives include bolstering peace and stability; protecting civilians; strengthening governance institutions; and supporting economic recovery, growth, and the provision of basic social services, including health and education.
With a lifetime of observations, research and experience in tow as she embarks on this new mission, we wish Diana well. Over the course of the next few months, we will post more about this next generation of USAID workers and more from those who were there in the very beginning, highlighting USAID’s 50 years of saving lives and making a difference.